If elections were decided on volume of yard signage, Beto O’Rourke — the dashing El Paso Democratic congressman, whose Irish heritage and Ivy-League pedigree are belied by his conveniently Hispanic-sounding nickname and his propensity to drop the f-bomb during political rallies — would have this one in the bag.
A drive through any neighborhood in Fort Worth would confirm that.
What’s even more obvious is the lack of signage for his opponent.
An article in the Texas Tribune attributes the dearth of yard signs to the Cruz campaign strategy. Still, in deep red Tarrant County, it shouldn’t be that tough to find plenty of Republicans willing to declare their support for Sen. Ted Cruz on their own property.
But my guess is many Republicans have gotten to know Cruz and don’t much like him.
In my circles, the adjectives most frequently associated with Cruz are “grating” and “arrogant.”
Some believe his attempt to shut down the government, while taken on principle, was mostly theater and largely ineffectual.
The president’s supporters are wary of Cruz because of his late and lukewarm endorsement of Trump as the Republican nominee.
While you don’t have to like a candidate personally to vote for him, the ambivalence toward Cruz is a weakness easily exploited by a candidate like O’Rourke.
O’Rourke also spent the early part of his campaign reaching out to moderates, independents and even conservatives, with a message of unity both politically savvy and expedient. Indeed, he can’t win without them.
Political consultants have credited O’Rourke’s popularity to his early campaign, which has enabled him to generate enthusiasm and name recognition.
But it’s fair to wonder if, underneath all the excitement over a finally viable Democratic Senate candidate in reliably red Texas, voters are still somewhat in the dark about O’Rourke’s policy positions.
Case in point.
A friend relayed a recent conversation she had with another friend, a Hispanic woman and social conservative, who was singing the praises of the congressman. When my friend lamented that O’Rourke was not only pro-choice but held an extreme view on abortion (he voted against a 20-week ban), the response was complete surprise. “I didn’t know he supported abortion. They never mention it on Spanish radio.”
Anecdotes are not data, and O’Rourke hasn’t buried his record on abortion or other issues like his support of sanctuary cities and gun control.
But when public policy polling shows that the majority of Texas voters think more like Cruz — on policy issues not to mention topics like kneeling during the National Anthem — it’s fair to wonder if O’Rourke’s popularity is rooted in ignorance of his record and personality.
Voters often choose the devil they know over the devil they don’t.
In the Texas Senate race, O’Rourke, the unknown quantity, seems to be getting the better of his opponent. And maybe that’s because his support has the depth of, say, a yard sign.